I’m writing this with plenty of baseball left in Game 5, and the big story so far is Matt Harvey, who’s pitched six shutout innings and looked brilliant all the while.
In the bottom of the sixth, though, both managers did things so befuddling that it seems sort of amazing that their teams made it this far.
First, Terry Collins let Yoenis Céspedes continue his at-bat, after fouling a pitch straight off his kneecap, even though it wasn’t clear that he could still walk, let alone run.
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Oh, and with the bases loaded in a one-run game.
Céspedes popped out, which was just about the best thing that could have happened. Since it seems unlikely he was going to hit the ball hard, while a ground ball to third base might well have turned into a triple play. Since, as we discovered immediately after Céspedes made contact, he couldn’t run. At all. Could, in fact, barely walk.
It was simply managerial malpractice for Collins to let Céspedes hit in that situation, with the game potentially on the line and lefty bats Kelly Johnson and Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the bench. A pinch-hitter might have hung a crooked number on the board; all Céspedes did was make Collins look like a dunderhead.
Meanwhile, Ned Yost’s mistake wasn’t nearly so obvious, but it was still a mistake. After Céspedes popped up, the bases were still loaded with just one out, lefty-hitting Lucas Duda coming up. One run might make a huge difference here, so why not summon a lefty – Danny Duffy or Franklin Morales – from the bullpen? Thre’s no reason to save them for later in the game, as everyone knows that Ryan Madson and Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis will be getting all the action after the sixth. Ned Yost’s BIGGEST job in the sixth inning was keeping the Mets from expanding their 1-0, and he didn’t do it. Because Duda lifted a fly ball to center field that easily plated Curtis Granderson from third base.
Ultimately, neither decision might seem costly in terms of the final result. But one does wonder: If they can make mistakes this big in a single inning, how many are they making from April through September?